Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Well, that was interesting...

When I was younger, I went on a trip with a youth missionary organization to do construction and painting work. While on the trip I met a couple of Australian kids who dared me to try Vegemite, and the experience of being sent gasping for a beverage by a tiny taste of the stuff hung with me for years.

The other day at the grocery store, I noticed a jar of its English cousin Marmite on the shelf and bought it on a whim.

Following the instructions right on the front of the jar, I "spread thinly" on toast this morning and discovered that 20+ years of black coffee, hoppy ales, and soy sauce have kinda recalibrated my taste buds. It was actually pretty yummy. I bet it would be good on a cheese sandwich.


pdb said...

The Mrs swears by Bovril, which is twice as terrifying as Marmite since it was originally a savory beef extract, but after they changed the formula to a yeast extract ONLY TEN PERCENT OF THEIR CUSTOMERS NOTICED.

I wouldn't eat it if you spread it on Jessica Biel's ass.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

I'm always interested in anything the Brits do to simulate real food.

If you Google "Marmite", you'll find recipes and a whole lot more that you did not want to know.

Hmmm...they can't make food or automotive electronics (viz. Lucas).

Without Spitfires, Purdeys and the English language, the entire island would deserve permanent storage in what they call "dust bins".

Andrew C said...

I moved to the USA from New Zealand when I was a kid. In middle school, I'd open a jar of Marmite at lunch, and watch everyone flee the table! I've only met one or two native-born Americans who can stand the stuff.

Great, now I'm craving a Marmite sandwich.

og said...

I have marmite on toast every morning. It is lovely with cheese. I have tried it with other things with varying degrees of success.

Ed Foster said...

British palate, definately. The hoppy ales, probably a taste for dry sherries, Bordeauxs instead of Burgundies, bet you don't like sweet crap on meat, and strong thick gravies.

Gotta luv it, I can hear my arteries hardening as I salivate.

Hey John Peddle, old joke. How come the English drink warm beer?

Their refrigerators are made by Lucas.

And a thread Tam got me started on mentioned that American hotrodding techniques bumped the Merlin engine 600 horsepower.

And the Spitfire, while beautiful, couldn't dive as well as the ME-109, couldn't turn with the Zero, and was obsolescent by 1942. The two squadrons of Spits the RAF sent to Burma were shot out of the air by the Japanese in 3or 4 days.

Conversely, the later, Merlin equipped P-40's could out turn a Zero at 300 mph, survive a savage pounding, and were faster and cheaper to build.

English has the largest vocabulary in the world, something like half a million words at last count, but needs it, as it requires almost twice as many words to convey the same information as more compact lanquages. No gender and inconsistent tense complicates things immesurably.

So we're left with Purdeys, as well as Hollands, Boss, Rigby, et al. There we are in complete agreement.

Sadly, the Brits, at least the English and Scots, aren't in agreement any more.

Bloodymindedness, the distillation of class hatreds tracing all the way back to 405 A.D., has the ruling peasants (or their representatives) doing everything possible to torture the remnants of Britain's gentry, including the destruction of the "blood sports" they so loved.

What was it Tony Blair said? "I don't care if the animals live or die, I just don't want THEM do do it!".

The Irish, at least south of the line, are doing fine, better than almost anybody else in western Europe. The Welsh, given enough poverty, will probably do O.K. too.

The English and Scots are so far down the back of the power curve they're hopeless, so give them the contempt they deserve and lock the door against the refugees when they come begging in a few years.

The best of them are intellectual gimps, whining slackers. We have enough of those in Berkeley and Seattle.

og said...

Best marmite commercial ever


The Big Guy said...

You should check out the special "Guinness" anniversary version of Marmite... Very tasty.
I got a great introduction to Vegemite in Brisbane in 2001 from a waitress in my hotel-
"Just use a fingernail's worth on a well-buttered piece of toast."
It's hilarious to see the Brit/Aussie TV commercials where the kid slathers on a quarter-inch of Marmite or Vegemite on a slice of bread...yikes!

I get a small jar once a year, it usually lasts for the entire year of an occasional breakfast treat.
(and it grosses out the Perfect Child and The Woman Who Knows Most Things. Heh.)


theirritablearchitect said...

I've enjoyed enough coffee and bitter stouts for years too...but Vegemite is still awful.

The Marmite, I'm giving it a look the next trip into Berkeley-on-the-Kaw, based solely on your recommendation.

Tam said...

Try and visualize soy sauce distilled down to a resin...

Wolfwood said...

Marmite is AMAZING. This is one American who will cheerfully slather it on toast and ask for more. For Christmas, I'm going to ask for one or more of the big squeeze bottles of them, as I can never seem to get the remnants out of the jar.

Maybe I had a bad batch, but Vegemite just tasted like congealed vegetable oil to me; Marmite evokes a very good dark ale.

According to Bill Bryson (probably in "Mother Tongue"), English has twice as many words as the runner-up language, German.

Tam said...

"According to Bill Bryson (probably in "Mother Tongue"), English has twice as many words as the runner-up language, German."

Yes, but the Jerries make up for it on syllables.

Anonymous said...

Here's another native-born American (Southern as well) who likes Marmite on toast.

Then again, I also like strong beer and black coffee.


wolfwalker said...

Marmite? Marmite? I suppose next you'll be telling us you like lutefisk, too...

Ed Foster, your information on WW2 aircraft is a bit off. First, there was nothing that could turn with a Zero, and certainly not a P-40. The Spitfire stayed in production in various marks to the end of the war, and stayed competitive with all opponents (except the Zero) to the end of the war. The P-40 could outdive a Zero, but under any other conditions the Zero was faster. Oh, and since the Zero was a Japanese Navy fighter, and the Burma campaign was the Japanese Army, it's unlikely that Spits in Burma met any Zeros. More likely they went up against the Japanese Army's front-line fighters, such as the Ki-43 (Oscar), Ki-44 (Tojo), and Ki-61 (Tony).

Sean Galt said...

YUM! Veleveeta and Vegemite on toast; side of kimchee.
Now I know what to take to the shop for lunch tomorrow. (I don't have marmite, but I keep Vegemite at home, office, etc.)

PDB, you certainly can paint a vivid mental picture.

George said...

re: (John Peddie - Toronto) and
(Ed Foster)


Ed Foster said...

Wolfwalker: From Wikipedia.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, with sufficient altitude the P-40 could actually turn with the A6M and other Japanese fighters, using a combination of nose-down vertical turn with a bank turn, a technique known as a low yo-yo. Robert DeHaven describes how this tactic was used in the 49th Fighter group:

[Y]ou could fight a Jap on even terms, but you had to make him fight your way. He could outturn you at slow speed. You could outturn him at high speed. When you got into a turning fight with him, you dropped your nose down so you kept your airspeed up, you could outturn him. At low speed he could outroll you because of those big ailerons ... on the Zero. If your speed was up over 275, you could outroll [a Zero]. His big ailerons didn't have the strength to make high speed rolls... You could push things, too. Because ... [i]f you decided to go home, you could go home. He couldn't because you could outrun him. [...] That left you in control of the fight.

The Ki-44 didn't see action until'42, and the Tony didn't see production until '43, both long after Rangoon fell.

You're right about the Oscar being the primary fighter in the early Burma campaign, a plane with virtually identical handling characteristics to the Zero. Point there, although the Spits at Singapore were destroyed by Japanese naval aircraft without loss to themselves.

And, I did make the proviso about later versions of the P-40 with the Merlin engine or the similar dash 81 Allison.

With over 1,600 horsepower and an excellent two stage, two speed supercharger, the later P-40N's maintained the best over 300mph turn and roll of any American fighter of the war, with a top speed of 380mph, something even the improves A6M5 couldn't touch.

In North Africa, under 15,000 feet where the single stage supercharger wasn't a handicap, even the early P-40's outfought the Me-109 and the Macchi C202 Folgore, the tightest turning fighter of the war.

The 325th Fighter Group killed at least 133 first line German and Italian fighters in air-to-air combat, for a loss of only 17 of their own. Remember, that was in North Africa, while the Luftwaffe was still at it's best.

They didn't have the range of a P-51, or the speed of an F4U, but given a good engine, the airframe would furball with the very best of them.

LabRat said...

Marmite is nice on top of a layer of butter. I think Stingray chucked my jar, so there hasn't been any further experimentation.

Tried fish sauce as a condiment yet? It's another in the "very strong savory" family.

Douglas Hester said...

Sean Galt said:

"YUM! Veleveeta and Vegemite on toast; side of kimchee.
Now I know what to take to the shop for lunch tomorrow."

I'm glad I don't work with you :)

jbrock said...

Can't speak for Marmite, although this makes me want to try it. I loves me some Vegemite, though, and I'm approximately American in a long-term expatriated sort of way.

I'd also suggest trying Promite, if you can get hold of any.

Unknown said...

A cheese sandwich *without* Marmite? Unthinkable (OK, unless you add tomato, ham and mustard. Then ixnay on the Marmite).

Strangely, I don't like Bovril. Some people are the other way 'round (both are staples here in South Africa).

Fish sauce? Goes in about half of the stuff I cook. Fish sauce and / or Worcestershire sauce. Last night it was Hoisin sauce, though.

Now I'm hungry.

/me gets some biltong.

Anonymous said...

Marmite, eh?


Anonymous said...

Vegamite is road tar mixed with salt, a whole lot of salt! Actually, it was originally left over brewer's yeast, after the brewing was done. Horrible stuff. Is interesting to see a huge Kraft plant (somewhere around Melbourne) with reference to Vegamite on the side of the building. I know a mixed couple, Aussie husband, American wife. Their 3-yr old daughter would eat Vegamite sandwiches for every meal. Drives mom crazy! She's happy to see me when we're both in Oz, we speak Yank to each other and complain about Vegamite and the fact they don't know how to cook a steak. Larry Weeks

wolfwalker said...

Very interesting, Ed. May I ask your source(s)? I've done a lot of reading, in a lot of different books, about the air wars in WW2, and what you're saying here doesn't jibe with any of it.

Jamie said...

The thing is, Vegemite and Marmite don't actually taste the same. I grew up on Marmite and love it. I tried Vegemite once and had to wipe my tongue with both hands, Wil E Coyote style.

Ask an Aussie. They will tell you they can't stand Marmite (if you can understand what they are saying).

Dr. StrangeGun said...

Marmite; I'm on my third jar, having discovered a local provider only 2-3 years ago.

I don't have it often, but when I do it's fantastic stuff. I also took a page from the bovril book and tried a good bit dissolved in hot water... it's decent that way too, almost like beer bouillon.